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Evaluating Incoming Players

College Basketball Betting: Evaluating Incoming Players

By Loot, NCAA Basketball Handicapper, Lootmeister.com

Evaluating players at the beginning of their college careers has taken on more importance in recent years. It used to be uncommon to see players be so productive in their freshman year. Sure, the Fab Five was over 20 years ago, so it's not the newest phenomenon. But back then, it was an aberration. Nowadays, it's par for the course.

We look around the NBA and we see many players who were one-and-done at the college level. Some of these guys have forged great careers in the NBA. It has created a heightened awareness of incoming freshmen in the college basketball ranks. The betting man is now keyed-in to blue-chip high school prospects joining a team and the big affect they can have.

At the same time, it has perhaps tilted too far the other way. Before, we paid little mind to incoming freshmen. Now, perhaps we pay too much attention to it. On the basis of a handful of successful freshmen, bettors are now combing through the list of recruits looking for freshman game-changers. Not everyone is Carmelo Anthony or Kevin Durant. Look for specific things out of freshmen.

Reputation doesn't help us cover spreads. When dealing with a hyped freshman, we need to deal in the "here and now." This kid might be billed as the greatest thing since sliced bread. He might end up being one of the best players in the college ranks. But we run into trouble when we project. We expect this player to do certain things, but unless he's actually doing it--we could be led astray.

The coach can play a big role in this. Coaches usually have a researchable history. See if there are any clues in his past for how he handles big-name freshmen. The tendency on the part of the sport might be to play freshmen more than in the past. That doesn't mean that every coach will open the season by turning the kid loose. It depends on that coach's overall philosophy.

Look to see what the coach is doing with the kid. Some coaches are better than others in the area of developing young talent--even on a spiritual level. You would ideally want to see a coach who has experience in handling young superstar players. A lot of this will take care of itself. In other words, a top-notch high school prospect is likely to end up with a coach who has his act together.

Still, we need to keep an eye on it. What can often happen is that a team gets a boost in the public's eye based on having one of the very top high school prospects. Sometimes, those kids make a big splash, while others need some time to come around. What we want to look for are teams who are considered better than they really are because the reputation of the player exceeds his performance at the moment.

A player's season can have different manifestations, especially at a younger age. Look to see if there any changes in the player's form. He could get off to a rough start, only to start finding his bearings later in the season. Or he could start off well, before wilting from the rigors of the season, as opponents get tougher and become more adept at containing him.

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Make sure the entrance of a great freshman didn't accompany the exit of a lot of key guys. A top freshman playing well will undoubtedly help a team. But if that team is depleted from a lot of players leaving, that team is not likely to be as good as they were, despite how great the freshman might be. A freshman, even if he's a supreme talent, can't do it all by himself. And we don't want to overly-focus on one player when trying to gauge the overall effectiveness of a team.

Don't forget the different texture of the early-season. When looking at the incoming class of players, we can only determine so much when their team opens the season with a dozen games against inferior teams. In other words, it's easier to shine against lesser teams than it is when battling conference rivals. Just because a freshman tears it up against Cal State Riverside doesn't mean he will thrive when playing North Carolina. It could be different when the games really start to matter.

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